Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other alcoholics [or addicts], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.
The first thing to do when you approach step twelve is to recognize the first portion of step’s language, “having had a spiritual awaking as the result of these steps.” In other words, by the time you reach step twelve, you will have had a spiritual awakening of some sort. Most likely it was not of the burning bush variety, but no doubt you have experienced it. If you think that you haven’t, just take a quick inventory.
- Have I stopped my addictive behavior?
- Am I interacting in healthier ways with family members, bosses, coworkers, neighbors, and random strangers?
- Do I feel better about myself and my place in the world?
- Am I more accepting of others?
If the answer to these questions is “yes” (or even “sometimes”), and it almost certainly is if you’ve diligently worked the first eleven steps, then you have indeed had a spiritual awakening. So, pause for a moment and pat yourself on the back, because you are ready for the remainder of step twelve.
Essentially, the remainder of step twelve can be broken down into two parts:
- Helping others to recover from addiction
- Practicing the twelve-step principles in all your affairs
First let us discuss helping others. This can be done in numerous ways. Often, people think sponsorship of newcomers is the only route, but it is not. Certainly, however, it is one of the best. And it is relatively simple. A sponsor’s job is to understand the newcomer’s addiction issues as thoroughly as possible, and to guide that individual through the process of working the twelve steps. (If you are a new sponsor and find yourself unsure of the route, just consult with your own sponsor to see how he or she would handle things.)
Another great way to do twelfth step work is to attend and participate twelve-step meetings. By simply attending these meetings, you are supporting others on their journey, letting them know they are not alone and that you care about them. When you talk in a meeting, which is highly encouraged, you share your experience, strength, and hope, allowing others to learn and benefit from both your errors and your successes. Even people who are uncomfortable talking in meetings can be of service by arriving early to help set up chairs and make coffee, and staying late to clean up. These “quiet workers” are the people who make twelve step meetings possible! The trick with service work, as twelfth step work is often called, is finding a “job” that you’re comfortable with, and then doing it as well as you can, and preferably without expecting recognition or thanks.
The second part of step twelve, practicing the twelve-step principles in all your affairs, is even easier. After all, you’ve been doing this with your addiction and most of your day-to-day life already, and you have step ten (which you practice on a regular basis) to keep you on the straight and narrow. In step twelve, you merely continue implementing the work you’ve already done and are doing on an ongoing basis, applying the lessons you’ve learned to all aspects of your existence, not just your addiction.
Despite the ease of working step twelve, recovering addicts nearly always fall short of their ultimate goals. And this is just fine. In fact, it’s not only acceptable, it’s expected. We are not saints when we arrive, and we do not miraculously become saints just because we’re working the program. Our real goal is to live sober lives one day at a time, and to do that a little bit better today than we did it yesterday. In this way, recovery is much more about progress than perfection.